Railroad Locomotive Ride-a-Long

Is there such a thing? I’d love to spend a day in the cab of a locomotive. I assume, however, the railroads would be pretty stingy about letting a non-employee ride along with the engineer. Anyone know if such an experience can be bought?

I used to be a train aficionado, and ISTR that small tourist and museum railroads might offer such a thing (or, at least, had in the past) – it’d be more likely to be in a steam locomotive as opposed to a state-of-the-art diesel-electric, but that’d be appealing to many.

I doubt you’re going to find a way to do this with an operating freight railroad, but I could be surprised.

The Nevada Northern used to have an engineer for a day program on a steam locomotive, as did (does?) my former employer in NE Texas.

For the big stuff, it’s pretty difficult. If you can make friends with an engineer, you can get a ridealong, although it is against company policy.

I used to volunteer for a museum that did train excursions (with deisel FP40s), and passengers were not allowed in the cab due to insurance reasons (is what I was told). Train insurance is expensive.

Sometimes, insurance is a drag… When I was in grade school, I got to ride in the brand new diesel locomotive on my great-uncle’s railroad(it was only a 9 mile route, but just as wide as the rest - or so my great-uncle told me). I wish I remembered more about the trip…

I just saw something like this on TV in the last few weeks. Cumberland, Maryland is/was a big hub for trains. They have scenic trains through the mountains and they do allow people to come to the cab to watch them shovel coal and such. I didn’t see what else they allowed though.

You’d have to be a very good friend of someone in the business with the authority to OK it or to sneak you onboard.
My wife works for a locomotive manufacturer and frequently rides along to evaluate her work (controls). She had a friend who wanted a ride and was told in no uncertain terms that it was not going to happen.

I’m talking modern commercial trains, not tourist lines.

Thats how my wife got to do this. The engineer used to eat lunch at her bar, and one day he let her drive the train for a while.

Would never happen post 9/11, due to where those tracks went to.

Yeah, that is what I was thinking. It seems like getting into the cab of a modern locomotive is akin to getting into the cockpit of a commercial airliner or ocean-going freighter.

Also, insurance.

Depending on what you want to get out of it, you could do this very cheaply and wouldn’t need anyone’s permission.

That is, would riding in the front seat of a subway car with an open cab do it for you? I love doing that.

Also, insurance.

I’m a locomotive engineer for a Class 1 railroad, and can tell you that it is not possible on Class 1’s.

The reasoning has very little to do with 9/11, the crackdown really started after the Chase, Maryland incident. Prior to that, and for a short time after, it was pretty common for people to get cab rides.

The main things to come out of that incident were random drug tests and federal certification. If an engineer gets caught with an un- authorized person in the cab of the locomotive, he will lose his certificate, and will be unable to work. In the past, he might have got just a slap on the wrist.

No engineer is going to take that risk now.

Cab rides are offered at the Pacific Southwest Railroad Museum in Campo.

Pretty much impossible on a class I or II railroad (large national or regional systems) although they do make occasional exceptions for members of the press, operation lifesaver people, etc. Some of the class III roads (mainly small “mom-n-pop” operations) might still allow it, if you know somebody that works there. Best bet would be a museum/tourist railroad. Quite a few of them still do…on some you can purchase a regular passenger ticket then pay extra for a cab ride. Your best bet would be to find one that has an “engineer for a day” program where you get a quick operations/safety briefing then go out and actually run the thing - with a qualified engineer at your shoulder talking you through the entire process. These do tend to be rather expensive; a railroad museum here in Oregon where I volunteer charges from $600-1500 for the experience (depending on type of locomotive, number of cars, etc. which sounds extravagant until you consider that you’re essentially renting the whole durn railroad for a day. 3-4 crew, fuel, equpiment prep & maintenance, liability, all adds up. Of course, you can always buy a membership, sign on as a working volunteer, and get it that way.

split p&j, I’ve always wondered: Is it possible go from the cab to the rest of the train while you’re moving? Or would there be any reason to?

TheEssex Steam Train, in Essex CT, will actually let you drive.

We had a family friend in the early '70s who was an engineer for some railroad in Evansville, IN. His car had RR wheels on it, and he could drive to a track, lower the wheels and drive. He took us kids out on tracks a couple of times, and it was the coolest thing ever.

He also let me and my dad in the cab on a run to some local town; we were only gone 2-3 hours I think. It’s been 40 years, so it’s a bit hazy.

It was certainly a different time in America.

If any of you kids live in Evansville, or a similar small town, I envy you.
Small mid-western towns were the best places to grow up that I can imagine.

Nevada Northern Railwy Museum. You can actually drive, not just ride in, a steam engine or one of two diesels, for up to 28 miles, for between $575 and $2875, including the $30 membership fee.

I’m moving to Las Vegas soon. I’m going to have to visit that museum!

Roaring Camp Railroad, Felton, CA (in the redwoods near Santa Cruz) Engineer For A Day

ETA: Says its only $175 for the (whole?) day! And I think you get some (superficial?) train driving lessons with that, and you get to do something hands-on, besides just watch. I think.

More ETA: And if you like hiking too, there’s a large state redwood park immediately next door with substantial hiking trails through the trees; also a “interpretive trail”, a 1/4 smooth and level hike suitable for elderly, disabled, and children in strollers.

(Missed edit window.)

That’s 1/4 mile trail.

edit: I forgot forum rules about illegal activities.